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Written by Kevin Heisey
on May 11, 2021

One common issue that organizations face in Agile adoption is how to measure the success of their transformation. Agile brings new activities and metrics, but organizations struggle with identifying the right ones. Many can get stuck measuring activities or outputs rather than outcomes.

If you are reviewing your metrics, the key is to start with a clear understanding of why you decided to transition to Agile in the first place. Your why isn’t likely to just become faster. Usually the goals are based in business outcomes like increasing quality, collaboration and customer satisfaction while reducing time to market. Yet there are anti-patterns we commonly see when organizations measure Agile success.

Anti-patterns

  • Measuring activity and outputs rather than outcomes. As an example, teams often focused on increasing velocity but that’s not always an improvement. They might just be putting out poor quality work faster.
  • Comparing across teams. Don’t force teams to compete. A team versus team competition creates incentives to focus on gaming the system.
  • Letting the measure become the target. If teams are chasing the metric rather than the purpose driving the transformation, the measure is no longer useful.
  • Vanity metrics. These are metrics that are not actionable but can appear impressive. They can be useful as leading indicators, like number of completed tests, but they can be gamed to look good.

Tie Metrics to the Overall Business Strategy

The key to avoiding these anti-patterns is to tie metrics to your overall business strategy, by asking:

  • What are your goals and vision?
  • What is your why?
  • What are your long-term and short-term objectives?

Organizations adopt Agile to create a culture of continuous improvement in quality, value delivery and customer satisfaction among other things. Using the right metrics is a key aspect of the continuous improvement feedback loop. Starting from an initial assessment, collect data, measure and analyze to identify patterns or early indicators, react and adjust to what you find and repeat continuously. This feedback loop works best when you start from the Big Picture strategy, decompose to the smallest component and then measure throughout to ensure that what you are measuring is an indicator of how well you are achieving the overall business outcome.

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